As a soon-to-be dad, having a baby can be an incredibly romantic thought. The dream looks something like this…
Your wife shares with you she’s pregnant – news met with joy and anticipation. You go through the pregnancy weeks with her chatting away endless nights about names, what the sex of the baby might be and the person you hope baby will become.
The day comes for baby to arrive and you support your wife through a challenging but ultimately satisfying delivery. Then you hold your baby in your arms, support your champion wife in recovery and lead them home to begin your perfect family life of happiness and hope for the future.
This is the scenario dreams are made of. And our story definitely began this way, but on delivery day, that scenario for us went out the window.
Our delivery day started to plan. My wife was delighted when she told me her waters had broken at home (she was five days overdue at the time) and contractions started slowly but indicated that meeting baby was just on the horizon (how exciting!).
Our 4am drive to the hospital was relatively uneventful (except for a couple of discomfort stops) and things began well once in the delivery suite. My wife’s contractions were happening on time, and though they looked painful and uncomfortable for my champion wife, they were happening exactly the way they should.
But here is where our story began to change.
Our baby, who had been in such great position to be delivered the whole pregnancy, decided delivery day was not the day she was going to cooperate.
She positioned herself in a way making it difficult for her to be delivered naturally. Not only that, after being engaged in labour for the best part of a day, baby had become distressed, restricting oxygen to her brain while trying to enter the world. Her heart rate dropped quickly and was not rising again fast enough.
Well all this was going on, I was oblivious to it.
All I knew was that after spending a day supporting my wife through labour, suddenly doctors were flooding our delivery suite.
I was told to quickly throw on scrubs and trail my wife’s swiftly moving bed to the hospital’s main operating theatre.
Was everything ok? What was happening?
The operating theatre was a hive of activity. About a dozen doctors were buzzing around my wife’s bed preparing her for what they had termed an ’emergency’ c-section.
Their ongoing reassurance was extremely helpful for us – they clearly talked us through what was happening while the procedure was taking place (potential ploy to divert my wife’s attention? I think so).
I’ll never forget the final question one of the doctors asked my wife and I the moment before baby was born.
‘Do you know what the sex of your baby is going to be?’ to which we shook our heads. He was preparing us for the announcement.
And in that moment my life changed forever.
‘Congratulations! You are the parents of a beautiful baby girl.’
I can’t explain my emotions at that time. We expected a boy, and here I was, looking at the girl who would change my life forever.
In that moment, I remember feeling a peace about our baby girl and a closeness with my wife that we’ll be able to share for an eternity.
After a brief introduction to our new daughter, she was whisked away to a table at one end of the operation theatre. There an oxygen mask was applied to her tiny little face to help her breathe on her own.
‘Dad, would you like to come over and meet your daughter?’ the doctors said, to which I hurriedly accepted their invitation.
I leaned over her and instantly fell in love.
As she fogged up the small breathing mask attached to her face my natural reaction was to pray that God would be with my daughter through what would have been an extremely distressing time for her. Fear has never been a feature of my family, today wasn’t the day that would start.
After these initial introductions to my daughter, my wonderful wife met her face-to-face for the first time, and then she was taken to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit for monitoring and treatment.
We didn’t get to hold our baby girl when she first arrived into the world.
I remember feeling a relief that my daughter had been safely delivered into the world but also a sense of hopelessness that there was nothing daddy could do to help her in this situation. Daddy could not save her in her first challenge of her life, and I had to rely on others (professionals, doctors) to give my baby girl her best chance.
I remember arriving at the neonatal unit for the first time. There was a warmth there, but it’s still not the place I’d dreamed of being moments after the birth of my first child. Shouldn’t I be halfway home now with my beautiful new family?
Approaching our girl in the unit for the first time was a surreal moment. She was lying in an incubator with what looked like a thousand wires coming from all parts of her tiny frame. She had a small oxygen mask attached to her face and was surrounded by machines that dwarfed her parents let alone our sweet little girl.
Was she going to be ok? Was her distress at birth going to impact the rest of her life?
I remember the one thing I did do at this time was assure my wife of the wonderful work she had done in birthing our new treasure. She had done everything within her control to give our girl her best chance. It was now about being there for our baby girl in her life’s first battle.
It was here, at the neonatal unit, we learnt that our girl was going to be put through a cooling treatment, for three days, to help her with her oxygen flow (particularly to the brain). They would monitor her to determine any issues that may have arisen from her labour experience. They assured me she was a mild case.
A mild case. What does that mean in a situation like this? Was she going to be ok? Was she going to be able to play like any other little girl aspiring to be whatever she wanted to be? These questions and more flooded my mind over the next 24 hours. And then 48 hours. And then 72 hours. Sleep was difficult for me during this time to say the least.
After a successful round of ‘cooling’, our fighting girl was eventually discharged from the antinatal unit with a clean bill of health.
Her brain activity is the same as any other little newborn girl and she is now doing all the normal things that babies need to do when entering our world like learning how to feed:)
I held my daughter for the first time on the fifth day of her already eventful life. It was bliss – one of life’s truly great experiences if you are gifted with a son or daughter. Absence really does make the heart grow insanely in love.
She is lying on me sleeping now as I write this. She is an absolute treasure.
I wanted to write and share my experience, from a dads perspective, for a couple of reasons:
One, it has helped me process what has been an eventful first week of my daughters life and our lives as parents.
Two, I wanted to give other new parents hope that sometimes, when pregnancy / delivery doesn’t go to plan, there is hope that things right themselves eventually and the unique story you create out of these situations may help the next couple who’s birth doesn’t quite go as planned.
My little girl is a treasure and in her short time on earth she has taught me more about what courage looks like than anyone I’ve ever met – and for that I’ll be eternally grateful to her.
Hopefully this provides some hope to soon-to-be parents pursuing that ‘perfect’ birth. Our story wasn’t perfect, but in the face of its challenges, it was definitely blessed. I’ll always be thankful for that.
Baby girl now has the hiccups on me. Lol. I better help her out with that.
Written by Jesse Boyce